To the Editor:

It is very unfortunate that I, and other in-home child care providers present at last week's childcare shortage meeting, left feeling the need to defend our profession from negative and incorrect public perception.

I got the impression that the meeting was not very well prepared for, because there were important questions about funding a child care center that had no answers. The main focus of the meeting appeared to be "finding that one person" to step up as Director of a child care center to replace Prairieland. In- home daycare and nanny service were mentioned as options, but were dismissed by parents present. The overall feeling expressed by some parents present was that they feel center based care is superior to in- home child care, because at a center "they are working on math" instead of having their children "sit in front of the TV" at someone's house.

The daily schedule at my child care home, and the homes of most fellow providers, does not allow time for TV. We do Circle Time, centers, story time, crafts, learning activities, and outside playtime daily, in addition to various teachable moments throughout the day. We also make sure to have lots of time for free play, which is a child's most important job! In- home child care also gives older children the opportunity to act as "teachers" and model correct behavior and skills for the younger kids present.

There are many different types of child care, and different options work better for each individual family, but please don't dismiss and put down in- home providers. We need to be supported by our daycare families, and the community. We also need to be able to support each other, and make sure that we have the tools and information we need to make in home child care a profitable and respected occupation. This would benefit both our current providers, and people who may be interested in becoming in- home providers.

Maybe the incorrect perceptions expressed by some parents last week leads to people choosing other job opportunities, and I'm sure some of the other reasons are financial.

Thank you to Kelly Nokleby for being a voice and advocate for in-home providers, and pointing out that many in home providers don't even make minimum wage once their profits are divided by the hours they work. We work hard, with long hours, for little profit, because we love children and we love what we do. But we also face scrutiny and complaints from some of our daycare families when we propose raising our rates to help offset our many expenses.

Peg Heglund spoke at the meeting about developing a business model and other tools to help people interested in starting their own child care business. There were definitely good ideas and valuable information shared, but with the overall direction the meeting took, unfortunately I was left with an overall feeling of discouragement, and of being underappreciated and misunderstood as an in home child care provider.

Granite Falls and the surrounding communities had a child care shortage before Prairieland closed, and just opening another center is not going to solve the problem. Our communities need more in- home child care providers too, but we need better supportive tools and by far better public perception on the part of those parents who incorrectly believe, and spread the misinformation, that in-home providers don't give children quality learning opportunities.